Dehydration can become a serious problem if it’s allowed to escalate. If you miss the early warning signs. Discomfort can turn into a health risk that can even render you unconscious! It can affect you during an ordinary working day – prompting many office workers to set themselves reminders to ensure they’re drinking around two litres of water a day. In America the 8×8 rule is popular: you should make sure you drink an 8 ounce glass of water 8 times a day, which does indeed equal approximately two litres.
If you’re pushing your body beyond its usual limits: if you’re working out, or doing some heavy physical labour, if you’re living in the midst of a heat wave or you’re unwell, it’s much more important to keep track of your hydration levels. There are all sorts of ways you can monitor how well hydrated you are, and even a blood test for dehydration, though as long as you spot the earlier warning signs this shouldn’t be necessary.
Feelings and Symptoms
The first thing to look for is a feeling of thirst – this is the most straightforward way your body has to tell you to drink. This can also be accompanied by a dry feeling in the mouth, and, as things escalate, feelings of tiredness and headaches.
The quicker you react to these symptoms, the faster you’ll put a stop to them, but it’s not enough to just drink water: when you dehydrate you also lose electrolytes, the salts dissolved in your body’s fluid reserves. If you don’t replace these electrolytes, you’ll suffer even worse effects so make sure you have some isotonic drinks or rehydration tablets.
If you dehydrate, your urine changes. It might not be the most pleasant task, but if you check it, you’ll notice that when you’re well hydrated it’s light in colour, more translucent and has a weaker odour. As you become more dehydrated your urine gets darker in colour and stronger in smell, and you’ll need to pass water less. If you notice this cycle beginning to take hold, it’s time to take serious steps to ensure you can rehydrate fast.
The Skin Pinch Test
One way you can quickly check for a serious dehydration is to pinch your skin. Pick an area on the hand and give it a pinch. If it quickly springs back to normal, you’re likely at a normal hydration level. If it takes time to return to normal, you may have a problem. Your skin turgor (or elasticity) is determined partly by your fluid levels – if it drops, it’s a good indicator you need to hydrate more!